St Mary"s Church (Mariakirken) construction is believed to have started in the 1130s or 40s and completed around 1180, making the church the oldest remaining building in Bergen. St Mary"s Church is the only remaining of twelve churches and three monasteries built in Bergen between its foundation during the reign of Olav Kyrre (1066–93, traditionally 1070) and the end of the twelfth century. Excavations have revealed the remains of an earlier stone church on the site, probably never completed. The exact year of the current church completion is unknown, but the church is mentioned in Sverris saga as where the rebels of the Birkebein Party sought refuge when attacked by a peasant army in 1183. St Mary"s Church is likely to have been built by craftsmen from Scania, then part of Denmark. The church"s style is remiscient of that of Lund Cathedral in Scania.
St Mary"s Church was significantly damaged in the town fire of 1198, caused by an attack on the city by the Bagli Party, enemies of the Birkebein Party. The rebuilding resulted in several architectural changes. Bergen burned again in 1248, a fire which caused an even greater degree of destruction to the church than the earlier fire. As part of the reconstruction after this fire, the towers were heightened and the chancel lengthened. The church was damaged in several later town fires, but never again destroyed to the same degree as in the fire of 1248.
Although having been built as a parish church for the Norwegian population of Bergen, St Mary"s Church was taken over by the city"s large German population in 1408. By belonging to the wealthy Germans, St Mary"s is richly adorned and escaped the fate of being turned into a ruin, unlike several of the other churches in the city. Not until 1874, long after the German domination in the city had vanished, did it again become an ordinary parish church, even though sermons were held in German until after the First World War. The most recent restoration of St Mary"s, led by architect Christian Christie, lasted from 1863–1876. The church will be closed for restoration work, Jan 2010 until 2015
St Mary"s Church is a two-towered, three-naved, mainly Romanesque style church. The eastern part of the choir shows some Gothic influence reminiscent of the Haakon"s Hall, likely caused by the reconstruction after the 1248 fire. The church is constructed mainly in soapstone, the oldest parts being built of the highest quality soapstone. Shale is used sporadically. At least three different types of soapstone is used, and it is likely that the stone comes from several different quarries in the district.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.